Listed as the fourth most visited country in the world, Spain thrives off its tourism. Barcelona especially, receives a fair chunk of annual tourists with its unique vibe of multinational cultures and distinct landmarks. On the other side of the coin however, the number of expats arriving in Barcelona continues to rise every year as well, and really who doesn’t want to live in the vibrant Barcelona? But as beautiful as Barcelona is, living there as an expat is no piece of cake.
The expat scene in Barcelona
First of all, Barcelona has an incredible expat scene, more than any other Spanish city. Personally I envy my friends who live in Barcelona, there is always something going on in the city. You can be sure to stumble upon expats and travellers in almost every corner of the city, whether you’re enjoying Barcelona’s nightlife or just wandering down one of the city’s many narrow path or alleyways. Most are open and willing to share their experiences and new life in Barcelona, and if you decide to listen to their stories, you’ll often notice that they have come a long way.
You will find that a large proportion of expats will have originated from UK, USA or South America and left for various reasons. Some go there to work, or, like my friends, come to Barcelona to study. As captivating and colourful as the city is, there is really no surprise as to why many decide to try their luck in Barcelona. Thankfully, being the big cosmopolitan city that it is, there are a large number of multinational companies so for foreigners finding work in their native language of English or Spanish, finding work in Barcelona can be easier than other Spanish cities or towns. But it is not always easy. You may find most companies expect their applicants to be fluent in Spanish and English – in some cases even Catalan is expected.
The working visa issue
In order to be allowed to work in Barcelona, you will of course need some form of visa. This won’t apply for citizens of the EU but for those who are not, you may come across some difficulties. It is therefore essential to do your research first about applying for the right visas in Spain. Keep in mind that even if you manage to get a job, as a non-EU residential, you are very likely to get a visa for only a limited time.
A permanent residence permit can only be obtained after having lived in Spain for five continuous years. Issues including Barcelona’s high rents, working long hours for a lower than expected salary and learning Catalan can make living difficult and often stressful and are factors which make some expats decide to throw the towel in and move back home. Many non-EU expats are still struggling with these restrictions, and especially US citizens are often joking about wanting to have a Spain Visa lottery, like the US green card lottery, but those who really dream of spending their whole life in Barcelona won’t give up so easily.
Life is a beach
Of course with these big issues, it’s not all sadness and misery. As I said, there is still a high number of expats moving to Barcelona despite the economic crisis. Just like other bohemian European cities like Berlin, you find that a lot of people move to Barcelona because of the seemingly relaxed way of life – which Barcelona certainly offers. Yes people may be working long hours – or not working at all but you still notice that the overall vibe of the city is quite comfortable. On the street, days (and the summer!) seem to drift and although it might appear that a lot of people are chilling on the streets, people still manage to get by. And with great locations like Barceloneta and Parc de la Ciutadella, it is no wonder why so many dream of living here. Besides, being stressed in Barcelona is never for long, just have a sip of sangria and all will be fine! So, what do you think? Is the city of Gaudi the place for you?